17 states challenge Trump administration over vehicle emissions
WASHINGTON -- California and 16 other states filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in federal appeals court challenging the Trump administration's decision to declare vehicle emissions rules through 2025 "not appropriate."
In April, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said standards on model year 2022 to 2025 vehicles should be revised, reversing a decision by the Obama administration in January 2017.
The U.S. Transportation Department has drafted a proposal likely to be made public this month that would freeze vehicle requirements at 2020 levels through 2026. Reuters has reported the draft would assert that a 1975 law bars California from imposing its own state emissions rules, as it has long done nonetheless.
Automakers such as General Motors and Toyota Motor Corp. want the Trump administration and California to reach agreement to extend national standards.
“The standards we are fighting to protect were adopted in 2012 and don’t take effect until 2022. They were a lifeline thrown to an industry that was in trouble and desperate for stability. They were based on the best judgment of engineers about what technology could achieve. And in fact they are being achieved today, years ahead of the deadlines, because of the good work of the auto industry,” said Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, said in a statement.
“But now Administrator Pruitt, based on no new information or facts, wants to roll back all that progress in the name of deregulation. The Final Determination is just the first step but it is intended to provide the legal basis for a decision that has already been made: to halt the progress that regulators and industry have made toward a new generation of vehicles. It does not withstand scrutiny and it will not stand.”
A copy of the states' petition has been posted but it was unclear if it has been filed in court yet.
California Gov. Jerry Brown announced the suit's filing, in District of Columbia court. He called the EPA decision "an illegal act" along with Attorney General Xavier Becerra. New York, Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts, Iowa, Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland and other states are joining the action. Brown said the states cover 140 million Americans, or 40 percent of the country.
"This is about health, it's about life and death," Brown said. He said Pruitt and President Donald Trump "want people to buy more gas, create more pollution."
The states argue that the EPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously, failed to follow its own regulations, and violated the Clean Air Act.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the "Trump administration conducted a phony study" to justify less rigid emission rules.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Tuesday the administration was reviewing the lawsuit but declined to comment.
The Obama rules adopted in 2012 sought to double average fleet-wide vehicle fuel efficiency to about 50 mpg by 2025, but included an evaluation due by April 2018 to determine if the rules were appropriate.
Adjusting for a shift in consumer demand to larger vehicles, the current rules are projected to hike fuel efficiency to a fleetwide average of 46.8 miles per gallon by 2026, according to a letter sent Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., to Pruitt and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Carper said that, according to a draft proposal he obtained, the administration favors freezing standards through 2026 and that would result in a fleetwide average of 37 mpg by 2026. Carper said the draft shows the administration's preferred alternative would result in Americans using 206 billion more gallons of gasoline through 2050 versus the current standards.
Automakers want rule changes to address lower gasoline prices and the shift in U.S. consumer preferences to bigger, less fuel-efficient vehicles.
In March 2017, Trump suggested he would soften the mandates. “The assault on the American auto industry is over,” he told autoworkers.
Nichols of CARB told Reuters last month that a group of states was considering the legal move, but it does not mean they could not still try to reach agreement with automakers and the federal government.
She said: “We can sue and talk at the same time.”
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the states' lawsuit and said the Trump administration could not stop Americans from working to improve the climate. "The EPA would have better luck trying to require horse-and-buggies than they would trying to stop the push for cleaner vehicles," Bloomberg said in a statement.
Automotive News contributed to this report.
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